Posts Tagged ‘LGBT rights’

There is only one Thomas Hitzlsperger

11/01/2014, 01:43:16 PM

by Jonathan Todd

“Football,” according to The Times editorial on Friday, “is trapped in an intolerant culture that most other sports of the nation have passed by.” I’m sure the writer of this editorial drew upon close knowledge of many professional footballers in concluding “change has to come from the top”. If you ask footballers, though, they’d say that the most important change has to come from the sides; namely, the fans on the terraces.

What footballers “are all agreed on,” reports the Secret Footballer, probably Dave Kitson, “is that there is one very good reason that gay players would keep their sexual allegiance firmly in the locker: the fans.” This is hardly surprising if you think about it. “Would you come out and then travel round the country playing football in front of tens of thousands of people who hate you?”

It would take a super human courage to say, yes. In contrast, for a footballer to come out to the England captain, Steven Gerrard, wouldn’t seem such a big deal. Asked yesterday by Sky Sports how he’d handle this, Gerrard said he’d “certainly help to make his position a lot more comfortable … There certainly would be no problem in the dressing room. He’s a teammate and friend.”

It’s easy to dismiss this and insist that footballers must be more homophobic than others. But, I’d guess, broadly speaking, the people who work in football are no more open or closed minded than workers in most workplaces. Coming out to colleagues may be a challenge but I’m not convinced that if these colleagues are footballers that it would be any more of a challenge than if they were butchers, bakers or candlestick makers.

Yotam Ottolenghi, however, doesn’t travel the country baking in front of thousands of people who hate him. If he had to, no matter how tolerant his fellow chefs, perhaps he wouldn’t have publicly come out. As other worldly as this thought experiment is, it reinforces the Secret Footballer’s claim that the biggest barrier to gay players revealing themselves is the fans.


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